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DT Top 40 Albums 2013

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40. Bobina –  Same Difference 39. Alix Perez – Chroma Chords 38. Scumfrog – In Case We’re All Still Here 37. Machinedrum – Vapor City 36. DJ Rashad – Double Cup 35. Trentemøller – Lost 34. Survival & Silent Witness – In From The Wild 33. Four Tet – Beautiful Rewind 32. Goldfish – Three Second Memory 31. Factory Floor – Factory Floor 30. Space Dimension Controller – Welcome To Mikrosector-50 29. Klute – Draft Copy 28. Claude Von Stroke – Urban Animal 27. Footprintz – Escape Yourself 26. Dadub – Your Are Eternity 25. Joy Wellboy – Yorokobis Mantra 24. Clockwork – B.O.A.T.S 23. Chase & Status – Brand New Machine 22. Armin Van Buuren – Intense 21. James Holden – The Inheritors

 

20. Kaskade – Atmosphere

Kaskade-Atmosphere-artwork.jpgKaskade’s Atmosphere album reveals a dexterity for sultry orchestral strings and ambient textures as well as a production prowess in a variety of musical settings- not just the big club anthems.  With its dynamic musicality, the Grammy-nominated DJ and producer’s eighth studio album eclipses 2011’s aggressive Fire and Ice and also 2010’s punishing yet ultimately monochromatic Dynasty.The overriding tone of Atmosphere is one of maturity and control.  Atmosphere’s brightest moments are the smoldering “No One Knows Who We Are” with Swanky Tunes featuring Lights, the sparse yet captivating “How It Is” featuring Debra Fotheringham and most notably the arresting, ambient “Floating” with the positively divine Haley.  Magic happens whenever these two collaborate and “Floating” is no different.  Stripping away the beats in this way raises the stakes in a sense and puts more of a focus on the song itself which Kaskade himself seemed very conscious of during the creation of the album: “Production styles come and go, but good songs can stand the test of time.”

Now more than ever Kaskade’s focus seems to be on the more subtle details like texture and mood.  With music ranging from gentle ambient to festival-sized house, Atmosphere is bold in its trajectory and overall successful in its delivery.

 

19. Akkord – Akkord

akkord.jpgThe eponymous debut album from the once shadowy duo of Akkord – a pair that moonlight as Manchester based producers Indigo and Synkro – is an oceanic sized trench of techno influenced, dub flecked, UK bass music that basks and revels in its mastery of sound, design, precision beats and deep, deep, DEEP bass. It also marks the end of an absolutely massive year for arguably this season’s breakout label, Houndstooth – legendary London nightclub Fabric’s artist led endeavour, ably fronted by Electronic Explorations head honcho Rob Booth, Leo Belchetz and Rob Butterworth.Hard, dark and cold are all apt words that can be thrown at this release. Supplanting colour and melody for mono-chrome, greyscale atmospheric backdrops and grime influenced bass tones, Akkord have creating an otherworldly experience that combines the attitude of early era dubstep with the relentless, inhuman, pinpoint precision of techno.

It’s top quality, original, compelling and utterly exciting music for both your body and your soul. The question that needs to be asked is this “is it possible for them to actually top this?” A toughy when you are almost starring perfection in the face. Have they, like the label clearly has, made a Faustian pact with the devil? Regardless of whether they and the Houndstooth camp worship the devil or not, I, for one, am thoroughly looking forward to hearing what they, and the label come up with next! Bring on 2014!

 

18. Rudimental – Home

220px-Rudimental_Home.jpgThe debut album from Rudimental was a slow burner, but during the summer of 2013 became a lot of peoples sound track and with Big performances at a sloe of Festivals, it has propelled the album & Rudimental in the limelight including a Mercury Nomination just recently.  

The album is full of great collaborations and includes stand out tracks include Feel the Love featuring John Newman, More than Anything featuring Emeli Sande, Not Giving featuring Alex Clare and John Newman again and the superb Waiting all night featuring Ella Eyre. 

 

 

17. Jon Hopkins – Immunity

hopkins_immunity.jpgWhat more can be said about Jon Hopkins?  Film Soundtracks, Ivor Novello and Mercury Prize nominations, working with Brian Eno, , cool remixes,  Jon has done it all. So that’s why we are delighted to see Jon Hopkins rightly receiving higg praise for his brilliant 4th studio album ‘Immunity’  when it dropped this summer. Promising to be a  “powerful, multi-faceted beast, packed with the most aggressively dancefloor-focussed music” Hopkins has ever made, Immunity is supposedly inspired by the need to achieve a euphoric state through music it more than exceeded our expectations. Drawing inspiration from the arc of an epic night out, the album peaks with Collider, a huge, apocalyptic, techno monster and then dissolves  later with the quiet, soft and fragile descent into Closer.  Awesome stuff.

 

16. Mat Zo – Damage Control

matzo.jpgIt’s been a tumultuous year for electronic music, but if one of the scenes acts can have claimed to have had an even more eventful 2013 thus far it would surely be Anjunabeats producer Mat Zo. Starting out by dropping his chart topping track ‘Easy’ on an unsuspecting public for one of the biggest tracks of the year before collaborating with Hip-Hop legend Chuck D for ‘Pyramid Scheme’, then winning his own radio show on SiriusXM and having to contend with the flagrant plagiarism of Will.i.am you could say that the last 12 months have been more than action packed for the young man from London. Landing in November hotly anticipated debut album entitled ‘Damage Control’ released via Anjunabeats and Astralwerks saw the full studio work accompanied by a supporting world tour that will see Mat traverse the globe from India to London, across the U.S and before heading to Australia. With 14 fresh cuts on offer full of  all star collaborations it was an easy choice to slot Damage Control into out top 20 albums of the year.

 

 

15. Logos – Cold Mission LP

logos.jpgIt took a while and a lot of listens to totally comprehend the debut album from Logos. To categorise it, I’d say it sits well among the wave of grime releases currently being churned out by producers with a taste for the avant garde. The spatial consciousness envisioned throughout it is the defining aspect of the record, one far away from the oft chocker block aggression the genre primitively arose with. The current worldwide stock of instrumental grime producers don’t all convey themselves as angry young men through their beats and with Logos, his confidence in the lingering power silence can attain provides an elemental beauty not often realised in the form.   Otherwise known as James Parker, Logos originates from Lincolnshire, though he upped sticks to London more than a decade ago, where he was able to immerse himself in the varied and unique culture the city has to offer. Its music of provenance truly capturing his attention – he’s co-promoter of the cities single dedicated grime night, Boxed in

The records highlight comes through its final track, ‘Atlanta 96’ (Limitless mix). Cricket chirps open, bringing a good time holiday vibe, before silver sparkling synths shine through. Its here the sense of romanticised emotion is rendered at its best. Vocals snips of ‘I’ll go to any ghetto in London’ at one time would deem an aggressive call out to any egotistical MC’s. Here however, it conveys closer to a message of friendship, one of communal unity that crosses all borders, regardless of their postcode.  Cold Mission evokes a sense of light and complex emotional states, that in parts may seem confused and not quite sure of themselves, but make no mistake this is truly a prestigious watermark for what grime has reached towards these past few years. A definite highlight of the year and worth many a listen.

 

14. Wilkinson – Lazers Not Included

wilkinson-lazers-not-included-300x300.jpgI think it’s fair to say, in D&B terms, it’s been Wilkinson’s year. Ram Records‘ new poster boy has a top ten, 100,000+ selling single under his belt and delivered one of the 2013 biggest anthems in ‘Take You Higher’. After opening his Ram account with ‘Moonwalker’ almost three years ago he’s now arrived at his debut album, Lazers Not Included.  An ear for a catchy lead riff is something Wilkinson is most certainly in possession of, evidenced at various points on Lazers Not Included. The aforementioned ‘Take You Higher’, ‘Need To Know’ and ‘Half Light’ are perfect examples of this. There’s club ready bangers here too. Redemption, with its grizzled synths and and half time brain rattling drum patterns, has gully written all over it. ‘Like It Hard’ is another cut primed for the DJ’s, whether you’re at home or at Fabric. A glitched out, cheeky stepper, its breathy, pornographic vocal sample signaling a face contorting drop. Rough edges are smoothed out via liquid moments, taking shape in ‘Too Close’, featuring Detour City, and the previously released ‘Tonight’. It’s wobbling bass and prevalent melody made it a favourite the first time round, it should catch on with brand new listeners too. Not restricting himself to purely within the 170 region, hip hop gets a look in on ‘Heartbeat’ and again on ‘Heatwave’. K.Flay adds the bars on an instrumental that has clear echoes of Timbaland, even if it doesn’t know it. ‘Let Me Be Free’ and ‘Need You’ tick the boxes on the Dubstep tempo side of things. 

Lazers Not Included caps off a great chapter for Wilkinson on his rise to D&B superstardom, something he is clearly destined for but you always felt that would be the case pretty early into his Ram career anyway. It’s got enough to help introduce him to a wider audience yet still keep his hardcore fan base happy.

13. Tigerskin – All Those Goodbyes

Tigerskin--All-Those-Goodbyes-DIRTCD05-300x300.jpgAfter a selection of really good singles earlier in the year, Windfall for example featuring in our Top 100 Tracks & Lied later on. Then came the latest album from German producer Alexander Krüger, under his Tigerskin guise. He has been putting out house and techno under various monikers since the mid-nineties, before settling as Tigerskin in 2004. This LP is Krüger’s first in nearly a decade, and came out on Dirt Crew Recordings, which has put out 13 of Krüger’s EPs over seven years, the album contains a slew of collaborations. We’ve had it on serious repeat since its release at DT Towers and it features deep house, techno and several more downtempo numbers. 

 

12. Apparat – Krieg Und Frieden (Music For Theatre)

apparat.jpgThe relationship between electronic music and the performance arts has long been a close one. From Underworld’s long running collaboration with director Danny Boyle, to The Knife’s 2010 Darwin-themed opera, to Jeff Mill’s rescoring of Fritz Langz’s silent movie Metropolis, it’s easy to see why the expansive ambience of electronic production fit so well with visual accompaniments. Yet when Sascha Ring (aka Apparat) received a request from Germany’s renowned theatre director Sebastien Hartmann to score his new experimental adaptation of an obscure Tolystoy text, you can see why he might not have realised what he was getting himself into. Ring openly admits that he was naïve about the project, both in terms of the dedication that was involved and the effort it would take for him to, so to speak, take a step back from his artistic ego and work within a team. Joining the cast during their intense two week rehearsal process in a large industrial unit, Ring worked with a two-piece orchestra  to construct the accompanying score. The finished result was a compound of classical string and pianist arrangements, Ring’s recent post-rock electronic muddying and the occasional vocal accompaniment, all of which was performed live during each night of the theatrical run. Brave without being over-experimental or difficult, and with enough of Apparat’s somewhat signature sound to not count as a red herring in his discography, Krieg Und Frieden is a beautiful deviation in the ever-expanding and ever-indefinable Apparat project. With a Modeart album on the not so far horizon, it looks like 2013 was big year for one of dance music’s least predictable stars. 

11. James Blake – Overgrown

Overgrown-art-2.2013.jpgJames Blake’s comeback was warmly welcomed by us here at DT. 2011 felt like a decade ago and the ability to contain excitement over the release of his new album ‘Overgrown’ was diminishing by the second. Alas, talent should take as long as it needs to. With the early teasers of ‘Retrograde’ and ‘Digital Lion’, it was already clear that Blake’s style is ever-evolving. Each individual track on ‘Overgrown’, released back in April, is genius in its own right. There’s that familiar sense of comfortable isolation like the soul of each track is internal. You can trust that other listeners might feel the same about a track, but stripping it down bare seems a bit blasphemous. The album is quite frankly all over the place, but cosmic solitude is evident throughout.

We’d suggest you really take your time to listen to this work. The complexity and intricacy of each track merits no less. ‘Overgrown’ is a masterpiece and will remain one of the greatest paragons of Blake’s growing discography. 

 

10. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

daft-album-306-1368475629.jpgAgain, it wouldn’t be a list truly reflecting 2013 without an appearance from Paris’ most famous android pairing. Random Access Memories” (RAM) was the most eagerly anticipated global album of the last year and over the months before release clues appeared, chiefly amongst social networks as well as other platforms. There were futuristic videos leaked of the Punks unraveling the vinyl and playing it for the first time as well them taking Coachella by storm without even attending. Their collaboratoration with Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams was unquestionably a  major success and a sturdy springboard for the launch of the album. Opinions were however once again divided, as indeed they were for the “Tron Legacy” soundtrack. The position commanded by Daft Punk is based on a lengthy spell of pioneering new avenues within electronic music that many would later traverse and further evolve. The mere inimitability of the album release following on from a week’s free streaming of the album on iTunes is a clear nod to their legendary status. Sure, their reputation precedes them. This, rather unfortunately, is also the root from which stems the splitting of opinions surrounding the album. Following the release of the album’s first single “Get Lucky”, the duo garnered considerable criticism that centered around the notion that the release was not worthy of the degree of hype that it had accompanied. Predicating opinions on matters outside of the music or musicians in question is inequitable and in this case comes across somewhat contrived. The live recordings of numerous instruments and vocals permits an entire spectrum of sounds to be possible. Some of the influences from which ideas are drawn in the album are distinct, with a firm nod to disco but also to rock and pop amongst others. It is this variety that underlies the album alongside the quality of the recordings. There are tracks that sound like music that you could physically grasp and hold in your hands. A stark contrast to the over-polished studio recordings of today, and it is this basal background noise that gives the music meaning and makes it more compatible with human life, that is seldom itself free of imperfection.

9. Disclosure – Settle

Disclosure-Settle.jpgThe sound that brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence have cultivated is distinctly ‘Disclosure’. Hear one song and you instantly recognise another. This is by no means a criticism; for people so young to have already created such a distinct musical signature is truly impressive. Last summer, their remix of Jessie Ware’s Running caught the attention of mainstream figures such as Annie Mac, who started to champion them, playing them on her radio show and inviting them out to play in Ibiza with her.  They appeared on line ups alongside SBTRKT and Four Tet at the Warehouse Project.  Settle takes the listener through the full spectrum of the Disclosure ‘sound’, opening with When a Fire Starts to Burn, a Chicago-house tinged song, reminiscent of label-mate Julio Bashmore’s When Jack got Macked.  Filled with hand claps and finger clicks, it was a song that will be heard at festivals throughout the summer. The transition into the mainstream has earned Disclosure their detractors, but also a legion of new fans. The brothers have stated that they want as many people as possible to hear, and more importantly, like their music, which with two Top 20s, is something they have achieved.  They’ve led the way for other DJs, such as Duke Dumont to make the transition from club to radio plays and here at DT we can only think that is a good thing. Settle is an album filled with flawless songs, which will gain them a lot of recognition.

8. Jubei – To Have & Have Not

jubei.jpgPatience; stated to be some sort of a virtue with good things coming to those who wait for them. Ironically it’s also the name of one of Jubei’s biggest and most well known productions. Even more ironically, patience is a trait that many of Paul Ager’s fans and peers within the drum & bass scene have had to exhibit in the time leading up to the long awaited release of his debut full length opus, To Have & Have Not. 

A project that had been over two years in the making, album buzz is undoubtedly a great tool for a producer to utilise when the timing is right. Saying that though, the life of such buzz only lasts for so long before people get bored of waiting or, even worse still, no longer begin to care anymore. It does and has happened in the past. Not that any of this was a secret to him in the creation process of To Have & Have Not. ” I was worried about it taking too long because people are quite fickle and they tend to forget and move on. When you’re not there it then creates space for someone to fill and I was worried that the heat might go onto them or that I wouldn’t be as current as people releasing big tunes.”  It must be a tough line for a producer to draw, especially one with a talent for crafting and building his music in its purest, darkest and quiet often most untainted form. Rush it and end up with a project that doesn’t quite live up to its hype, potential and expectation? Or wait too long and end up with an overcooked product that people may acknowledge but not in the way you’d probably want them to? Jubei is nothing if very frank in his admittance that whilst the wait might have been frustrating, not only for us but in particular for him, the payoff would eventually be worth it in the end. “I’m glad it took longer than it did because I wouldn’t have been as happy with it as I am now. Certain tracks didn’t come about until the very last minute. Prime example; the track

7. Daniel Avery – Drone Logic

Daniel_Avery_Drone_Logic_PACKSHOT.jpegUnless you’ve been rendered a quivering mass of non-sentient flesh by the seasons emotionally heavy handed Christmas advertising events, you’ll most likely know that Daniel Avery’s ‘Drone Logic’ has already been regarded a critical success. If, however, you are rather late to the party, take this sequence of trivial words as a chance to jump on board, free from the often dazzling spectacle of oncoming release hype. First impressions actually leave you wondering what all the fuss is; the acidic breaks of ‘Water Jump’ kicks off in relatively straightforward fashion, a little hypnotism added by the breathy Opus 3-esque female vocals. After a while you suddenly snap into focus, realising you have completely ceased functioning for the past few minutes, this phenomenon caused by the subtle switch into four to the floor kicks and inched up drama. Now you get it. This, in a nutshell, is the secret to Drone Logic. Avery plucks out sounds that wouldn’t have been out of place in the era of Orbital’s Green and Brown albums, raw and pure, then arranges them so they sit right on the surface of your eardrum, like some sort of analogue serenade that caresses and cradles you. Tracks that can initially lure you into a false sense of security through simplicity, before blossoming into firework showers of emotion or gritted teeth exercises in determination.

By the end you feel that the end journey has been crafted with true love and attention, with each listen sounding like the experience has been handcrafted for you alone, a bespoke piece of electronic beauty that fondly grows with time.

So Drone Logic does live up to its billing, no doubt pleasing those who like to partake in the futile pastime of purchase validation, but as for the slow to stir amongst us, Avery’s work will remain timeless, ready and waiting with open arms for when you finally succumb to its embrace

 

6. Kölsch – 1977

kolsch.pngThere’s a very definite Kolsch sound, characterised mostly by the bold catchy synth melodies he seems to have such a knack for and here at DT we love it. Within that sound however he displays a degree of variety: “Opa” demonstrates a kind of electro dissonance an beepiness contrasting with “Goldfisch”’s smooth sustenance. “Der Alte” begins sounding like the song Jay puts his lipstick on to in Clerks 2 (Goodbye Horses by Q Lazarus) but ends up sounding like a Max Cooper reimagination of “Changes of Life”As a  man keen on people having fun and partying Kolsch definitely achieves exactly what he sets out to do. He makes exeptionally high spirited dance music perfectly suited to the floor and this album is a great showcase of that. Look a little closer and the details are where the production experience of 20 years makes itself known. Live drum samples are blended expertly within highly modern almost commercial sounding elements in what has come to be an idiosyncratic and fairly unique way. Part of our summer soundtrack.

 

5. Thundercat – Apocalypse

thundercat.jpgAn energetic, imaginative performer Thundercat, has toured the world working with an impressive list of artists, from members of LA’s vibrant underground beat scene such as Flying Lotus through to global stars such as soul legend Leon Ware, Erykah Badu and Snoop Dogg. Whilst his debut album, ‘The Golden Age of Apocalypse’, marked him out as one of the music scene’s most innovative players, his new album, has firmly established himself as a global star earning universal praise everywhere and DT is no different selecting the American’s sophomore effort as our fifth favorite effort of 2013. 

4. Mano Le Tough – Changing Days

mano_le_tough_cover_high.jpgThe debut album from heralded Irish producer Mano Le Tough came out in February. The entire Innervisions gang including Âme and Dixon have become fervent supporters of Mano Le Tough’s warm and melodic, yet driving sound.

Niall Mannion, as Mano is known to his parents, is originally from Greystones, a seaside village near Dublin, Ireland. After an eclectic musical youth and a move to Berlin, Mannion first popped up on the electronic music radar in 2009 with an EP on legendary disco Viking Prins Thomas’ Internasjonal label. With his unique mixture of modern disco, atmospheric house and electronic, Niall quickly gained massive interest in his music. EPs on such acclaimed labels as Tensnake’s Mirau imprint, Dirt Crew Recordings and Ben Watt’s Buzzin’ Fly followed his remarkable debut. We discovered this album at a messy after party in Miami this year and had to have it after its first play and has been a firm favourite in the office since.

3. Special Request – Soul Music

special-request-soul-music-8.29.2013.jpgPaul Woolford’s debut Special Request LP, “Soul Music” – released by the prolifically excellent Houndstooth label – is a sub heavy, nostalgic slice of on-trend hardcore revivalism, that clearly pines for (and almost demands) a return to the halcyon days of ruckus breakbeat science and the chest pounding, supersonic bass assaults that characterised jungle’s first assault into the UK’s underground dance music consciousness way back in the early 90s.Re-contextualising jungle’s frantic, hectic drum work for 2013, mellowing the tempo out in favour of modern bass music’s more spacious, languid bounce, Woolford creates the album he has been working towards since first birthing his jungle leaning alter-ego last year via a slew of well received self-released white labels. 

With hardcore revivalism massively in-vogue at the moment, with producers from all parts of the music scene revelling in its hedonistic simplicity and glory, “Soul Music” – the first record since jungle’s heyday to make a decent, well-thought out argument for it re-animation and re-introduction into bass music’s zeitgeist – firmly cements Woolford’s name at the top of the pile of this nascent, nostalgically backwards looking, yet compelling genre. 

2. DJ Koze – Amygdala

koze.jpgNarrowly missing out on the top spot was Amygdala. DJ Koze had not released a full album for eight years. That’s a long time for a man with so apparent a creative urge. Given the long interval and the composers’s occasional gravitation toward the screwball it wouldn’t have been surprising if this had turned out to be more of a mad cap adventure. Billed as “Koze’s Sgt. Pepper”, Stefan has produced an album which is by no means conventional but the manifest inventive spirit has been tempered resulting in music which has a shot at being remembered beyond the ranks of Koze aficionados. With “Amygdala”, (titled after an area of the brain shown to effect memory and emotional responses) Koze has, with a little help from some friends, produced a collection of vignettes conveying moods from lonesome wistfulness of “Homesick”, to the literalistic incorrigible optimism of “My Plans”. Vocal narratives within about half of the tracks are provided by an impressive array of guests including Caribou, Apparat and Matthew Dear. There’s a rough dichotomy between these feature tracks and those credited solely to Koze. Although never falling into any explicit verse/chorus pattern, the vocal numbers possess almost songlike structures. Loose lyrical themes range from abstract; “When I’m climbing lemon trees of feeling,” to more direct musings; “I’ll lose some sales and my boss won’t be happy but there’s only one thing on my mind”. Awesome stuff.

1. The Field – Cupids Head

komp110cd_CU.jpgThe Field’s debut album, 2007’s seminal “From Here We Go Sublime”, was a standalone breakthrough. A paradoxical meeting of refreshingly sickly sweet excessively emotive sounds meeting with ear grabbing straightforward minimalist structures.  From that initial critically acclaimed triumph Axel Willner has released two further long players under The Field moniker. Seminal’s not a word used lightly in electronic music and not necessarily applicable in the case of The Field as there aren’t really any directly seedlings other than Willner’s own efforts. It’s a sound which has retained it’s feeling of originality, the present album included.

As ever the music is a myriad of contemporaneous contrasts. Excessively trancey ambience is couched in with conservatively developed beats; overall textures simultaneously glitter while retaining softness; poppy brightness does not detract from intellectual depth; and loops are worked, creating elastic single moments while at the same time conveying narrative. No Field fan will be disappointed with this release: An excellent addition to a catalogue of work which shows real artistic vision and development of themes. Another triumph for Kompakt too, in their twentieth year and still putting out some of the strongest music release after release. Undoubtedly it had to be our album of the year.

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Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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